CSPI petitions the USDA to change rules on the labeling of nitrites, nitrates in processed meats

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: GettyImages-Karaidel
Picture: GettyImages-Karaidel

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Consumer Reports have asked the USDA to prohibit firms from labeling processed meats as ‘uncured,’ and/or ‘No nitrate or nitrite added’ if they are cured with natural sources of nitrate and nitrite, such as celery powder (as opposed to traditional synthetic sources, such as sodium nitrite).

Celery powder still contains nitrates, and just because they are naturally occurring doesn’t mean that they are not potentially harmful, argued the CSPI and Consumer Reports in a petition​ ​dated August 29.

Both synthetic and non-synthetic nitrates and nitrites may cause cancer, and product testing results released today by Consumer Reports show that processed meats made with celery powder and other non-synthetic sources of nitrates and nitrites can contain residues of these substances, just as do meats that use synthetic sources.

Consumer Reports is also releasing survey data today showing that consumers are confused by ‘No Nitrate or Nitrite Added* statements, which are currently accompanied by a fine-print disclaimer on product labels identifying the non-synthetic source of nitrates or nitrites (*‘Except those naturally occurring in celery powder’)."

The petition added: “Such claims, even when qualified, are misleading because they cause consumers to believe that products processed using celery powder and other non-synthetic sources of nitrates and nitrites are free of these compounds, when in fact nitrates and nitrites were simply added through a different ingredient.

"We ask that the agency require a front-of-package declaration and clear ingredient labeling whenever nitrates or nitrites are used in meats, regardless of the source. We also urge the agency to take additional steps to minimize levels of residual nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines in these products.”

Read the petition HERE​.

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